Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Improve Your Posture to Look and Feel Younger

Good posture is something most of us have been nagged about since we were kids. We were always being told to "stand up straight". As we get older that simple directive can become hard to follow. As so many of us sit for hours at a time in front of the computer, driving, and lounging in front of the TV we are undermining our body's natural structure.

Since it's tough to see your profile in the mirror, one way you can get a sense of whether you're holding your head too far forward is to put your hand on the back of your neck and feel down to the base. Right in the middle you will feel a hard round bump of bone. Notice how much that bump sticks out. The more it sticks out the more you're holding your head forward and out of alignment with your spine.

Another way to check your posture is to stand against a wall. Touch your heels, butt, upper back and head to the wall. Do you find that you have to arch your low back in order to do this? Do you have to tilt your head back to touch the wall? These are signs that muscles are tight and you need to work on your posture.

The appearance you get when you develop bad posture is that of some one old and out of shape... head craned forward, shoulders and upper back rounded. However, our modern day lifestyle (i.e. the repetitive motions and postures of daily living) causes this to happen, to varying degrees in younger people too. Since bad posture can be painful and lead to more serious problems, it's worth the effort to correct it. For most people who have developed their bad posture through lifestyle it is not that hard to fix.

The four areas to focus on are the front and back of the neck, the chest and the upper back. The muscles in the back of the neck and the chest are usually tight and the muscles in the front of the neck and upper back tend to be weak. The trick is to stretch and strengthen these parts back into balance.

The back of the neck is easy to stretch. Simply stand tall with shoulders pulled down and back and lower your chin toward your chest. Additionally you want to stretch your upper trapezoid muscles which attach at the base of the skull and span out across the top of the shoulders. With your chin still lowered toward your chest, reach your hands toward the floor. This helps to pull the shoulders down. Then roll your head to the side and stop when you are looking straight ahead with your ear pointed directly at your shoulder. Do this for both sides.

You'll also want to stretch the pectoral muscles in the chest. Tightness in these muscles contributes to pulling your shoulders forward. A good stretch for the chest is to place your hand on the wall, at shoulder height, hand slightly behind you, fingers pointing back, elbow straight. If you need to increase the stretch, then gently turn away from the wall leaving your hand in place. Do this for both sides.

In order to strengthen the front of the neck, lie on the floor and without jutting out your chin, lift your head. Hold you head up for a second then lower and repeat. You will probably feel the muscles working and even begin to fatigue pretty quickly. You can begin to strengthen the upper back muscles by sitting up tall and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Make sure you do not lift your shoulders up as you squeeze.

One final suggestion is to practice good posture in front of a mirror. When your muscles have gotten used to holding your spine out of alignment it feels uncomfortable and even sort of "wrong" when you try to hold yourself with good posture. Practicing in front of a mirror can help you see that you're in the right position and get used to how it feels. Don't worry. It will become more and more comfortable over time until good posture is your natural state.

Remember, if lifestyle caused your bad posture then you will need to pay attention to how you are moving and holding your posture as you do things in your day to day and keep working at keeping those muscles stretched and strong.

No comments:

Post a Comment